That Difficult, Impalpable Muse

November 8, 2010

You people are so sweet and thoughtful.

After my last post, about the struggles of writing, I got a stream of supportive comments. “You can do it, John!” said one friend. Added another, “How can I help?” And a third: “You’re feeling disconnected from the Muse. Go for a walk, sleep, take a bath…”

But here’s the thing I should clarify: for me, being in this place is not a negative. This is not only the hard part, it’s also the good part. This isn’t being stuck and out of touch with the muse — this is the place where the Muse and I quit flirting and get down to getting serious about our relationship.

It’s just that the Muse is elusive. Evasive. Impalpable.

But that’s what makes the chase so fulfilling.

This sense of being on a long lonely road is what Seth Godin describes as “The Dip” — that challenging terrain that stretches through the valley long after beginner’s luck (or the initial spark of inspiration) has faded, but long before reaching the finish line.

As Tom Hanks’s character alcoholically growls in A League of Their Own:

“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

And by the way? The night after I wrote that post, I found it: that thing I was digging for. I got the book’s first sentence: eight words. (I had considered “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”—but a friend told me that was already taken.) And its second sentence, too: five more, making a total of thirteen.

The next day, it started to flow. This morning, I woke up and lay still in bed for thirty minutes, afraid to move a muscle, not wanting to chase away the fleeting thought. Eventually I slipped, slowly, out of bed and into my bathrobe and stole to the living room, found a pen and pad of paper, and began with the whisk broom. Got half a chapter.


Elusive; difficult; impalpable. But never outright inaccessible.

P.S. I can’t tell you exactly what the book is — but tune in a few months from now, and I will. It’s coming next September.


  1. Michelle @ Following Your Joy

    Hi John,

    Thanks for sharing ‘where you’re at’ with us! I love that you can allow yourself to “be” with the process and trust that it will all unfold in its right time. Because it will! And all of us will be in just the right place to receive your message when you’re ready to deliver it. Kinda cool how that works!

    Wishing you all the best on your “drive.” And hope there are some good sights along the way! Maybe even an In-N-Out? 🙂

  2. Mary Jo Hughes

    John, my dear;
    Your writings have always been an insprition to me
    I love your work, so I will be praying for your
    thoughts and fingers to keep doing the work as your
    help people achieve their dreams.
    Blessings to you
    Mary Jo


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